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Starting a Business During COVID-19: An interview with the Founder of ClayEarCandy, Mara Balvers

 

Turning a Passion to Ear-Fashion with ClayEarCandy

 

Why did you choose the name ClayEarCandy? 

It’s a play on words. It was a bit controversial in the beginning because my dad thought it was gross to have the words clay and ear together in the name but I tested the name out with my friends and it seemed like only my dad was making that specific connection. 

What was the motivation to create ClayEarCandy and sell earrings?

It started because I wanted to get a nice gift for my sister, Josie, and in this search, I fell down the rabbit hole of clay earrings. However, I could not find what I was looking for online. I came across some videos of people making them and wondered if it was possible for me to make them. I looked into it more and realized there is an upfront cost for buying the supplies but it was not expensive to try.  

What kind of products are you currently selling and are you thinking of expanding into other products?

I liked the bold statements you could get from polymer clay for earrings, so I wanted to hone in on earrings first. I have many friends who wanted to support my business but do not have their ears pierced. One suggestion I got was to make keychains out of the more popular earring designs. I would make custom keychain orders, but earrings will still always be the main focus. 

You’re currently marketing and selling your products via Instagram, are you thinking of using any other platforms? 

Other platforms take a percentage of each product and can cost a small fee to list items. The benefit of selling on Instagram is that there are no third-party fees, I can charge lower than what I would have on other platforms. 

I try to sell my clay jewelry at an affordable price and not raise my prices to sell my jewelry in other more expensive venues. 

How has it been juggling your business with online classes and the pandemic? 

It’s been manageable because I still consider designing and creating earrings as a hobby. It takes a lot of focus so I don’t multitask by watching TV or listening to music. I do it in my free time which I have more of because of the pandemic. 

How long has it been since you started your business? How do you think ClayEarCandy is faring? 

I would say it’s going well because I had no huge expectations to begin with and did not expect huge profit margins going into this. It was more the concept of wanting to keep pursuing a hobby I enjoyed and making it more sustainable. I started thinking up ideas in early December and ordered all my supplies over the Christmas break. Since then, the reach has expanded a bit from word-of-mouth and Instagram.

I am working towards paying off the upfront costs of all my supplies before making my packaging more sustainable. I recycle cardboard to post the earrings and reuse bubble wrap and tissue paper. I am recycling and reusing everything for my packaging except for the actual mailing package. 

Is this a business you would go into full-time? 

You really never know what could happen. 

The goal is to keep it a part-time thing and for it to remain something enjoyable for me and everyone. I wouldn’t get too overwhelmed or let it take over my priorities like school or work, but I could see myself putting more time into the business once it grows some more and has further outreach. 

There is an additional challenge with custom orders because you never know exactly how it might end up. For now, it’s not too overwhelming and has been fun! 

What kind of advice would you give to someone about starting their own business right now? 

Be patient because you will not immediately see all the rewards from it. It may seem like a lot of work and not much interest at first. Start small as it will pick up at some point! As long as you like what you do, there are no repercussions to trying. If you have no exorbitant startup costs, you might as well give it a shot!

Honestly, there is no better time than to start right now because many of us have that extra spare time (even though it does come from the pandemic), trying to see a positive side of it could help start your own business. 

 

Shop Local and Support Small Businesses: a message from Mara 

 

There has been a Support Local movement since the pandemic started when everyone realized that the rich were getting exorbitantly richer. Instead of buying from big companies like Amazon, there has been a shift to get people to stop supporting these businesses and start buying local. 

I want people to know that everything that I make is handmade. I put a lot of time into each design and creation and I am happy when people purchase them because I know they liked what I made. 

 

Hailing from Hong Kong, Michelle is in her second year at McGill University studying Political Science and Communications. A self-proclaimed Luke Combs enthusiast and an intense shopaholic, Michelle is also passionate about activism and advocating for the importance of maintaining good mental health. Pre-covid, she enjoyed brunch with friends (a firm Mimosa and Moscato D'asti lover), playing Just Dance with friends, and travelling. You can find her on Instagram at @mjd0ubleu!
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